The webcomic that turned Munchkin into an art form. Dang is a college student who decides to check out a local gaming group consisting of:
As the series goes on, Dang ends up picking up skills of his own, partly due to the influence of Dan's Lawful Evil older brother, Stan.
It can be found here. The author's site also contains D&D Excerpts, describing actual games the author participated in, which was then discontinued to make way for Tales from My D&D Campaign.
Provides examples of:
- Alternate Character Interpretation: An in-universe example: Dang thinks he has Nuclear Dan's real game figured out.
"I think you are a lot more sane than the version of yourself you are trying to portray."
(Interestingly, Dan's response is not pure Cloudcuckoolander.)
- Art Evolution: Big time. The art is almost optional, though.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Subverted in the poker arc. Joe claims to have used his math skills to instantly analyze the entire game. Naturally he takes last place.
- Berserk Button: Everyone has one.
- Jill: Pizza, age references, and Stan.
- Joe: Nerfs and anything that spoils his perfectly-thought-out optimization strategies.
- Nuclear Dan: "GAY-ASSED CURSE!" Taking any fire damage whatsoever.
- Steele: "JOOOOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEEEE!"
- Dang: Davros.
- Bland-Name Product: The Index. Which is odd, because later comics explicitly include or mention real games like World of Warcraft and Magic: The Gathering, and Dan mentions Dragon Ball Z.
- Catch-Phrase: Nuclear Dan occasionally seems to use these in place of brainpower.
I cast fireball centered on myself!
ICE NO BURN
I AM TETSUJIN.
- Color Blind Confusion: Everyone's hair started out shaded green due to the author being colorblind. He eventually changed it so everyone has more standard hair colors.
- Comically Missing the Point: Nuclear Dan's hat.
"If presented with a gaming system that offers no effective fire protection, such as some modern games, Dan's form of protest is to "go buddhist" as he calls it - in other words, make pyromaniacal suicide attacks. Clearly he once heard about buddhist monks immolating themselves, and utterly missed the point."
- Cut-and-Paste Comic: Unabashedly so, though slightly more dynamic once the comics switch to Flash.
- Dungeons & Dragons: The group's favorite game.
- Face Palm: "Book: when facepalm isn't enough." But there are few other possible reactions to the group chain-singing Madonna's "Like a Prayer".
- Gamer Chick: Jill, though the boys refuse to think of her as one.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Dan's sanity slips almost the second his character is geased to not harm innocents. It takes exactly four panels for him to start hallucinating.
"It could be worse. At least I'm not hallucinating."
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Done in classic style.
Stan: "Perhaps your email was hacked?"
Jill: "I never said said anything about email."
- On the other hand, Doctor Stan is such a Chessmaster it's entirely possible this was intentional gloating.
- Also, upon Dan breaking the geas, getting cursed and leaving the house, a discussion about geassing party members ensues... quickly leading to Stan.
Dang: "Who, Dr. Stan?"
Jill: "And how do you know he has a Doctorate, Dang?"
- Lame Pun Reaction: "Maybe I'm just dicelexic."
Dang: From now on I'm subtracting XP for puns.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: Steele leaves the group when he gets a new job and Dang becomes the group's new GM.
- Dang's real name is Davros, after the Doctor Who villain.
- Mentor: Doctor Stan.
- Munchkin: Everyone.
- Madness Mantra: Joe, absolutely certain that the DM will take any opportunity to rob his character of wealth while he waits for his magic items to be delivered, ends up huddled under the table in near-catatonic paranoia, muttering, "Items... Items..."
- Naïve Newcomer: Dang is this for a good while. Once he graduates to being DM, Bateman takes this role.
Bateman: Is it always like this?
Dang: Pretty much.
- Painting the Medium: With the beginning of the Second Evil Campaign, roleplaying-game-traditional secret notes passed between players and the DM are represented by little notepad-objects, which display the note on mouse hover. A similar system is also used for the players' thought balloons.
- Photographic Memory: Joe claims to have 'flash memory - just one step short of photographic'.
- Which averts Possession Implies Mastery: Just because he remembers something (like the definition of the Riemann Hypothesis) doesn't mean he understands it.
- Pimped-Out Car / The Alleged Car: The Danmobile is a post-market hybrid... and is old enough to be made of steel. It gets fifteen MPG highway, fifty city. And it has no power steering.
- Pin-Pulling Teeth: One of Nuclear Dan's characters pulls a grenade pin with his tongue, while the grenade's in his mouth. (This character has total immunity to fire and concussion, so this is not as stupid as it sounds).
- Pyro Maniac: This can't be emphasized enough for Nuclear Dan.
- Rule of Cool: "I'm going to allow that because it's cool."
- The entire Index campaign is basically made of Rule of Cool.
- Slice of Life: Of gamers.
- Speech Bubbles: Evolve from text-on-a-stick to color-coded true bubbles over time.
- Take That!: Rarely mean except when aimed at Star Wars: Galaxies.
- Wall of Text: The very nature of the comic justifies or at least excuses it, but even the author calls his mechanisms for cramming more text in "truly frightening".
- Webcomic Time: Time passage is handwaved for the most part, but Dang and Nuclear Dan went to E3 and vowed to participate in World of Warcraft's 'newly-released' expansion... a full year after said expansion had been released.
- This got a bit confused when the comic explicitly caught up to real life.
The comic metatextually references the following tropes:
- Ban on Magic: Type A1. For the first few hundred strips, both players and GM were banned by the terms of an actual real-life treaty from the use of most forms of illusion.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Muse's messages to the PCs in The Index arc. At least, unless you ask Steele, who just made them up to sound cool.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: The "thing with the eyelid", while not described beyond Noodle Implement levels, makes Bateman sick repeatedly. The group notes that this torture always works, not because the victim succumbs, but because the GM does.
- Combat Medic: Other characters constantly try to push this on the cleric, Sylvani. Dan points out that shooting might kill some zombies, but healing is guaranteed.
- Crazy-Prepared: Joe does this best on Lothar, carrying around such oddities as a cursed necklace and a blessed crossbow bolt (which he uses to slay a Rakshasha).
Dang: Wow, lucky you had that. Why were you dragging that thing around for so long?
Joe Chaos: In case we ever ran into a Rakshasha.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Nuclear Dan in spades. Any NPC who commits the slightest insult against him gets fireballed. One long-running storyline has his character geased to NOT do this — and Dan can't resist doing it anyway...
- Dressing as the Enemy: Too bad for the players the villain is smart enough to have prepared for this.
- Dump Stat: Charisma is mocked exactly four strips in, in so many words.
- Dungeon Crawling: Steele has to promise the players treasure out of character to make them follow the adventure.
- Evil Feels Good: Nuclear Dan loves the Evil campaign.
"I can suggest burning babies and nobody complains!"
- Exact Words: In the Old Evil Campaign, the players are forced to dethrone a king. They knock the king off his throne. The ensuing debate sidetracks everyone for some time.
- Five-Man Band:
- In the Index arc:
- In the Second Evil Campaign:
- Flaming Sword: Why does Dan's mage have a 16 Strength? He wanted to use one of these.
- Flavor Text: Steele is determined to read the flavor text for his Northgate module in spite of Jill's protests... and then he finds it goes on another page and a half...
Joe: The tremendous view encapsulates the awe-inspiring simile of the gigantic metaphor built by the famous legendary faction which magnificently verbed the jewel-encrusted adjective...
- Genre Savvy: Jill and Joe abuse metaknowledge to an alarming degree.
- Death By Genre Savvy: ...which Dan manages to use to kill Jill's character in the Second Evil Campaign.
- Goomba Springboard: Jill's Index character does this with an Agent to escape the Burgermeister's building.
- HeelFace Revolving Door: Tucked away on Mercutio's character sheet: Lawful Good (crossed out) Evil (crossed out) Good
- House Rules: A Nerf decree. A Nerf Manifesto. You mean you hold a nerf conference and take prepared questions from Nerfweek Magazine and the Nerf York Times!
- In a Single Bound: Most of the Index PCs have superjump powers to keep with the Matrix-spoof's Roof Hopping theme. Jill uses hers amazingly. Dan, on the other hand, asks what the point of jumping is if they're never on a rooftop. He took sliding instead.
- Killer Game Master: Semi-averted.
Joe: Ah, but Steele is a REAL GM. A good GM is bound by his own desire for fair play. He prides himself on his ability to measure the party, and the level of threat that will challenge them, and yet still be defeatable by them. You might place diabolical traps, insidious monsters with asinine powers, or host the players with jerk NPCs and a less than ample supply of magic loot...
Jill: But a good GM will always try to give the players enough chance, enough reward, enough opportunity to triumph over the challenges they face. To kill an entire party represents a monumental failure on the part of the GM. It means the end of the campaign.
Joe: But to kill a player or two in an encounter that is close enough that the remaining adventurers can pull through to win or escape... that is his holy grail.
- Malevolent Architecture: The Labyrinth of Jonias Thrae.
- Master of Illusion: The players force Steele to sign a treaty that forbids all of them from using illusion magic (after he breaks the first one). He only made matters worse by making illusory the one thing they never disbelieved — air.
- Min-Maxing: Joe Chaos is this in spades — and then in sudden fury over removal of a particularly cheesy game mechanics, rebuilds Dan's characters into realms beyond ludicrous.
- The author has actually posted character sheets for the characters. Readers responded by claiming the sheets weren't minmaxed enough.
- When Joe's character, a pure caster, uses a method to get a single (mediocre) ability at the loss of several caster levelsnote , it's pretty obviously not a workable high level character.
- Monty Haul: Jill and Joe furiously work to make the campaign into this by breaking the treasure-gain curve through pre-emptive slaughter. Dang is somewhat shocked.
- More Than Mind Control: Dominate Dan's character's and he'll rage - right up until you command him to start fireballing the other player characters.
- Mugging the Monster: In keeping with the roleplaying theme, the PCs must fight off a random bandit encounter:
Dang: WAIT A SECOND! What kind of equipment do they have?
Steele: Studded leather armor, shortswords, and bows.
Dang: And they are willing to attack what must appear to them to be a group of flying, flaming weaponmasters?
Jill: They're bandits, not brain surgeons!
- Noodle Incident: Jill blowing up the tower in the Warforged Campaign. The entire page is blacked out except for the words "massive explosion".
- Amazingly, it might not have been Nuclear Dan's fault this time.
- The words "Cheater" "Deep Sky One" "fire" and "idiot" are also visible if you look really closely.
- Off the Rails: Every single time a Nuclear Dan character enters a town, so much so that the entire group is shocked when he defeats a hostile bar patron without incinerating everything in sight.
- Player Archetypes
- Railroading: "Dammit, the labyrinth is what I prepared for you this session. You're going to the bloody maze!"
- Required Secondary Powers: As a Pyro Maniac, Dan builds his characters for fire-damage immunity. For a brief period, his new character lacked the damage reduction to completely ignore his own self-targeted fireballs.
- Rules Lawyer: Jill and Joe both, with emphasis on "intentionally ignoring whatever doesn't support his own case". Another source of What the Hell, Hero? for Dang:
Dang: You know, there's a fine line between meta-gaming and being immense jerks, you guys.
Steele: THANK YOU! So long I've waited for someone else to say it!
- Serious Business: Jill takes her gaming very, very seriously indeed.
Jill: "Yes, it's just a game... And the RULES of the game say Fire Elementals take double from ice spells!"
- Dr. Stan arranges a fake telemarketer call during the game for Jill, so he can take a charcoal rubbing of the tablecloth to get her email password so that he can send a fake email from her daughter telling her that she'll be arriving early, to make Jill think her daughter is possibly dead ... all just so Jill will be distracted during the fight against him at the end of the campaign
- Everyone (except Dang, who is a newcomer to gaming) takes the Treaty seriously (to the point of Steele paying reparations after violating the Treaty, and the Treaty being an actual, written agreement with multiple clauses). Said Treaty being an agreement not to use certain types of illusion, as they ultimately degenerate the game into every single player disbelieving every single thing in any room they enter.
- Wake-Up Fighting: "I FireSpark him!"
- What the Hell, Hero?: As the newcomer, Dang's role in the group is to ask this vital question.
"You mean you've done this before? What about all the innocent lives? Aren't we supposed to be non-evil?"
- You All Meet in an Inn: Dang's halfling joins the party in the Pink Pudding Inn. Dan destroys it three panels later. It takes 463 strips for the trope to recur — in the Second Evil Campaign, where the destruction of said inn is both expected and encouraged.
- And, funnily enough, doesn't happen, as Dan later remembers.
- Later lampshaded in the description of #490, in which the author claims this is the 47th time they've met at an inn.